Go ahead for major regeneration project that puts students first

Planning permission has been granted for the £40m City Locks landmark redevelopment scheme in Birmingham – another bold plan for student accommodation by specialist student housing providers, Alumno Developments.

This decision follows the very recent approval of Alumno’s proposed redevelopment of Three Mills West in Stratford High Street, East London, described as an ‘exemplar of student accommodation’ by the Planning Department of the London Legacy Development Corporation.

City Locks, as Alumno’s latest development is known, will be located along the Digbeth Branch Canal’s edge in Birmingham, near to the proposed HS2 terminus site.

David Campbell, managing director of Alumno, said:

“Eastside Locks is one of the largest regeneration projects in the country, and the student accommodation build will kick start the further exciting developments set to emerge on the site. We are delighted to be working on this landmark project, which further cements our objective of matching good quality design with affordability.”

The Eastside Locks area has been chosen as the site for the Birmingham City University (BCU) City Centre Campus project, part of the council’s vision to create a Learning Quarter in the heart of the city.

“Creating a vibrant new public realm through the opening up of the canal-side, Birmingham Council’s Eastside Locks master plan focuses on generating investment in the city,’ said David Campbell. City Locks provides the perfect opportunity to make a part of that vision a reality.”

Construction of three buildings, ranging in height from nine storeys to 13 storeys and incorporating 625 student bedrooms will start later this year. The scheme will provide generous well-lit spaces, organised around accessible communal areas. Entrance to the development will be placed in the central building, creating a key social space to facilitate student life. A pair of elevated courtyards to the west side of the building will form a natural break-out area and a hub for social activity.

In line with Alumno’s practice of involving students in the design development process of their student accommodation, 111 students at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design (part of Birmingham City University) were asked to name their preferences for common areas and how these might be used in the City Locks development. More than half of students said they often used the common room, with around two thirds saying that the common area would influence their decision when choosing student accommodation.

David Campbell added:

“Partnership with the key stakeholders, such as the universities and the students themselves, has become a unique strand of our work and has certainly helped drive the success of our projects. As well as using surveys, we develop projects for the design students so they play a hands on role – in this way, we benefit from the insights of our target market, while the students benefit from interaction with professional architects and developers and are able to apply their academic studies to a real-life and contemporary project.”

Dav Bansal, director at Glenn Howells Architects, says:

“We are very proud to be involved in reinstating the quality principles of student housing in the UK through this scheme, which will also form an integral part of the vision for Birmingham’s Eastside regeneration.”

Goodman, the developer of Eastside Locks, has a consented Outline Planning Consent in place based on a master-plan designed to create an exciting business and living environment. Goodman is now finalising the design of its first phase of development comprising offices and infrastructure in partnership with Birmingham City Council and the Homes and Communities Agency.

James Raven, development director, Goodman UK Business Parks, said:

“Eastside Locks will create a vibrant new quarter for learning and business in Birmingham, with a mix of uses including offices, a hotel, residential accommodation and retail. We look forward to continuing to work with Alumno to bring high quality student accommodation to the scheme, maintaining the momentum that will see significant infrastructure works and our first phase of office development start later this year.”